Condensation of ground state from a supercooled phase in the Si(111)-(4 x 1) → (8 x 2)-indium atomic wire system
Strong optical irradiation of indium atomic wires on a Si(111) surface causes the nonthermal structural transition from the (8 × 2) reconstructed ground state to an excited (4 × 1) state. The immediate recovery of the system to the ground state is hindered by an energy barrier for the collective motion of the indium atoms along the reaction coordinate from the (4 × 1) to the (8 × 2) state. This metastable, supercooled state can only recover through nucleation of the ground state at defects like adsorbates or step edges. Subsequently, a recovery front propagates with constant velocity across the surface and the (8 × 2) ground state is reinstated. In a combined femtosecond electron diffraction and photoelectron emission microscopy study, we determined—based on the step morphology—a velocity of this recovery front of ∼100 m/s.
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